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Category Archives: BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2018

THEY CAST OUT MANY DEMONS, AND ANOINTED WITH OIL MANY THAT WERE SICK AND HEALED THEM

THEY CAST OUT MANY DEMONS, AND ANOINTED WITH OIL MANY THAT WERE SICK AND HEALED THEM

(A biblical refection on THE 15th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – July 15, 2018)

 

Gospel Reading: Mark 6:7-13 

First Reading: Amos 7:12-15; Psalms: Psalm 85:9-14; Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14 

The Scripture Text

And He called to Him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. And He said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.” So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them. (Mark 6:7-13 RSV)

The story in today’s Gospel begins with Jesus sending the apostles out in pairs to preach and to heal. There were probably two reasons why Jesus did not want the apostles to go out alone.

Cities were far apart and a person going from one city to the next journeyed over long stretches of desert roads that were not heavily travelled. This meant that anyone foolish enough to embark on a journey by himself was an easy prey for the many gangs waiting in ambush to rob and beat those who came along.

There was also a Jewish law which said a judge could not find an accused person guilty if there was only one witness to the alleged offense. The purpose of this law was to protect an innocent person from a neighbor or acquaintance who might make up a story for revenge or blackmail. Therefore, under no circumstances could a judge consider the testimony of only one person sufficient.

The Jews applied the above mentioned law not only in cases involving someone’s guilt or innocence, but also in other everyday matters as well. If Jesus had sent out the apostles individually to testify that the reign of God was indeed here, they would have covered twice as many cities but the people who heard them could have challenged their testimony because the required second witness would not have been present. They would have questioned if what the apostles were saying was fact or fiction. By going out in pairs, the apostles verified each other’s testimony and those who heard would have accepted it as the truth.

The Gospel story ends with the apostles expelling demons and anointing the sick with oil. Ancient people used oil as a symbol of healing and strength. Athletes rubbed it all over their bodies before competing in sporting events and doctors prescribed it for a variety of illnesses. Today, many Christian denominations continue to use blessed oil for sacraments and prayer. This oil is symbolic of the spiritual strength and the spiritual healing Jesus gives us through the Christian community in our time of need.

For personal reflection: Jesus told the apostles not to stay where they were not welcome. Do those who visit your church feel welcome by your parish community? How can you make them feel more at home?

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 186-187.)

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray that You will continue to call Your disciples/followers of today to preach the Gospel and for those whom You call, that they will respond wholeheartedly. We thank You, Jesus, for letting each and every one of us to share in some way in the works of Your mission. Amen.

Jakarta, 14 July 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim 

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JESUS EXPERIENCED WHAT IT IS TO BE HURT AND REJECTED

JESUS EXPERIENCED WHAT IT IS TO BE HURT AND REJECTED

(A biblical refection on THE 14th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 8 July 2018)

Gospel Reading: Mark 6:1-6 

First Reading: Ezekiel 2:2-5; Psalms: Psalm 123:1-4; Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 

The Scripture Text

He went away from there and came to His own country; and His disciples followed Him. And on the Sabbath He began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to Him? What mighty works are wrought by His hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among His own kin, and in his own house.” And He could do not mighty work there, except that He laid His hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief.

And He went about among the villages teaching. (Mark 6:1-6 RSV)

Because people did not have family names in Jesus’ day, there were three different ways one could distinguish two people who had the same name.

First of all, a common designation was where the person lived. Simon of Cyrene, Joseph of Arimathea, and Mary Magdala are good examples. A problem occurred, however, if the two people with the same name came from the same place. In that case, friends and acquaintances may have identified the person by occupation. Simon the fisherman, Joseph the carpenter, and Levi the tax collector are just a few examples. Modern last names such as Baker, Smith, and Cook originated in this way.

Finally, ancient people sometimes distinguished a person by who his father was. One of the apostles was James, the son of Zebedee, and another was James, the son of Alphaeus. This custom also found its way into different foreign languages and led to modern last names such Janowicz, which is Polish for “son of John”, and Fitzgerald, which is Irish for “son of Gerald”. Thus, those who knew Jesus called Him Jesus of Nazareth (where He grew up), Jesus of Capernaum (where He lived during His public ministry), Jesus the carpenter, Jesus the rabbi, or Jesus the son of Joseph. Any one of these names would have been appropriate.

Jesus left Nazareth as a simple carpenter but He returned as a famous rabbi with His own disciples. People throughout Palestine heard of His reputation and respected Him but the people in His home town gave Him a lukewarm reception.

In today’s Gospel, the people of Nazareth marvel at Jesus’ ability to preach and they ask one another if He isn’t the carpenter and the son of Mary. Notice that they do not call Jesus the son of Joseph. Either Joseph was already dead or they meant this as an insult. By not recognizing Joseph as the father of Jesus, they may have been implying He was an illegitimate child. In modern slang, they were calling Jesus a bastard. Therefore, Jesus homecoming was less than a big success.

It’s easy for us to remember that Jesus is God but difficult to think of Him as also human. Jesus did not walk around with a neon sign on His chest flashing the words “Worship Me, I’m God!” Jesus was just as human as we are, and He sometimes experienced what it is to be hurt and rejected.

The next time we feel down, let’s go to Jesus with our problems. He knows what we are going through because He went through the same thing Himself.

Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 184-185.

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, come and be with me. Help me to listen to You more closely. Show me the ways I have boxed You in with My own ideas. Heal me with Your love so that I might serve You more fully. Amen. 

Jakarta, 6 July 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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FAITH MEANS CLOSE INTIMACY WITH JESUS

FAITH MEANS CLOSE INTIMACY WITH JESUS

(A biblical refection on THE THIRTEENTH ORDINARY SUNDAY – July 1, 2018)

Gospel Reading: Mark 5:21-43 

First Reading: Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Psalms: Psalm 30:2,4-6,11-13; Second Reading: 2Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15 

The Scripture Text

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about Him; and He was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and seeing Him, he fell at His feet, and besought Him, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” And He went with him.

And a great crowd followed Him and thronged about Him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If I touch even His garments, I shall be made well.” And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in Himself that power had gone forth from Him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched Me?” And He looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before Him, and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith had made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While He was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And He allowed no one to follow Him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, He saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. And when He had entered, He said to them, “Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at Him. But He put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with Him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand He said to her, “Talitha cumi”; which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and walked; for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were overcome with amazement. And He strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:21-43 RSV)

“In Jesus, the power of God saves the life that is wasting away and raises up the dead. He tells us to fear not but to reach out and touch Him by faith.” (Fr. Silvester O’Flynn, OFMCap.)

Mark’s story today is very homely. It is full of chatty asides like the gossip about the expensive doctors and fat lot of good they did for the woman! Or adding on that the little girl was twelve years old. And the final bit about getting the young lass a bite to eat. We can feel at home in that sort of chat. And the story is remarkable for the atmosphere of close contact and the number of times that physical feeling is mentioned.

You can sense how the crowds were gathering in around Jesus, pressing in on all sides. No place for claustrophobia. The afflicted woman had gone through so much treatment and we are told that is was painful. Now she was reaching out for a special touch. We get the physical description that the source of her bleeding dried up instantly and she felt in herself that she was cured. Jesus felt the power going out of Him. He knew that in the midst of all that pressure He had received one special touch. He looked around, seeking to make eye contact with this person.

Later, in the house of Jairus the scoffing unbelievers were sent out of Jesus’s close company. The parents of the girl and the three closest apostles were brought into the room. Faith means close contact with Jesus and belonging to the family. In the room he stretched out His hand to raise up the girl in a combination of word and touch.

Mark is telling us that faith means close intimacy with Jesus. And we cannot remain hidden from His look or distant from Him in an impersonal way. Our prayer must not be anonymous or mechanical … that sort of off-by-heart formula which is more a barrier that hides us from God than a bridge to bring us face-to-face with Him. Just like cliché comments pass for conversation but in reality only cover up the non-communication which ought to be faced.

Mark’s homely style invites you make your home in the story. He invites you into that sort of meditation where you develop awareness of your bodily feelings as the place to meet God.

You are glad that Jesus has returned to your shore again. The crowd around is large and you are happy to be among them. It’s that feeling when someone you love comes around. You feel the need to draw closer to Him. Your life today has wasted energy … you have reacted in pain … you are hurt … so now you need to draw closer to Him. You reach out … touch His garment. Not just any garment, but His. Just a touch, ever so light, lingering for a moment. It’s someone you have always wanted to be near. You never told anyboday. It’s your secret.

How do you feel inside? Heart pounding? A cleansing wave sweeping through you.  All your soreness is lifted out. You feel so much better. In this warmth you would love to stay on anonymously. But Jesus stops and turns around. His eyes take in everybody. Who touched Him? He wants to know you. Your knees are knocking but you find a courage you never thought you had. “It’s I, Lord … it’s me (your name)”. You feel His look. And all fear now vanishes.

The whole world has stopped revolving for only two people exist at this moment: Jesus and you. He sees into you and behind you … today, yesterday and tomorrow. You know that you are understood and wanted and loved. For the eyes of truth are the eyes of love. And the truth sets you free. Free from sin, free from pain, free from pressures. He calls you … My daughter, My son, My sister, My brother … for you are one of His family. And now He waits for your reply …

Source: Fr. Silvester O’Flynn OFMCap., The Good News of Mark’s Year, Dublin, Ireland: The Columbia Press/Cathedral Books, 1990 (Reprinted 1993), pages 193-194). 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, why am I so weak in faith, so full of fear? Show me that I need not be afraid but simply surrender to Your healing touch. I also pray for all those who suffer in the world. I pray that they may have the strength to bear what they have to bear, to recognize Your presence in their suffering. I pray that eventually they will come within Your Kingdom and be given the fullness of joy. Amen.

Jakarta, 30 June 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim  

 

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HE IS THE GREATEST AMONG THOSE BORN OF WOMEN

HE IS THE GREATEST AMONG THOSE BORN OF WOMEN

(A biblical reflection on the Solemnity of THE BIRTHDAY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST – Sunday, 24 June 2018)

 Gospel Reading: Lukev 1:57-66, 80 

First Reading: Isaiah 49:1-6; Psalms: Psalm 139:3, 13-15, Second Reading: Acts 13:22-26

The Scripture Text

Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord has shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your kindred is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all marvelled. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel. (Luke 1:57-66, 80 RSV)

The Church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist as a solemnity not only because he was the forerunner of Christ, but also because, as the Lord Himself said, he is the greatest among those born of women (Matthew 11:11).

John was born when Zechariah his father and Elizabeth, his mother, were both old (Luke 1:18), and the lady was considered barren (Luke 1:36). In their case, within the human limits, a conception and a birth were impossible. But all things are possible for God. John’s birth was not a mere biological exception, but a special favor granted by God. Through his birth and mission, the power of God was guiding human history. We know this from the angel’s message to Mary, “And behold your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will impossible” (Luke 1:36-37). Accordingly John’s birthday is celebrated six months before the birthday of the Lord.

The angel of the Lord had told Zechariah about the child, “… he will be great before the Lord … and he will be filed with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb … and he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah …”  (Luke 1:15-17). Even before they were born, Jesus and John met. John was so delighted in the presence of Jesus that he leaped for joy while still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44).

After his long silence, when John’s father spoke, his first words were a song of praise to God. Zechariah was a man of God, and after a long period speechlessness, at the first opportunity he spoke of what was foremost in his mind: the Benedictus (The Canticle of Zechariah). He also said to the child, “You shall be called a prophet of God the Most High. You shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare His ways before Him” (Luke 1:76). This, in fact, John did, crying out: “Repent, turn away from your sins, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2). He exhorted the people to prepare the way of the Lord. He qualified himself as the voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord!

Saint Augustine of Hippo [354-430] says:  “John marks the frontier between the Old and the New Testaments. The Lord speaks of him as the boundary line: ‘The law and the prophets are valid until John the Baptist.’  He represents the Old Testament and at the same time introduces the New.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You sent Saint John the Baptist to the people of Israel to make them ready for Christ the Lord. Give the grace of joy in the Spirit, and guide the hearts of all the faithful in the way of salvation and peace. We pray this in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Jakarta, 22 June 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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THE KINGDOM OF GOD

THE KINGDOM OF GOD

(A biblical refection on THE ELEVENTH ORDINARY SUNDAY [Year B] – June 17, 2018)

 

Gospel Reading: Mark 4:26-34 

First Reading: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalms: Psalm 92:2-3,13-16; Second Reading: 2Corinthians 5:6-10 

The Scripture Text

And He said, “The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.’’

And He said, “With what can we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables He spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to His own disciples He explained everything. (Mark 4:26-34 RSV)

People are naturally reluctant to change their minds about traditional beliefs and the Jewish people in Jesus’ day were no different from anyone else. They, too, were set in their ways and were reluctant to abandon their long held conviction, especially religious doctrine pertaining to the Messiah.

Some Jewish people in first-century Palestine believed the Messiah would conquer the world and, through Him, God would then restore the world to what it was like before man and woman sinned. This is what the Jews called the reign or Kingdom of God.

Some Jews believed the reign of God would come quickly once the Messiah appeared and that it would be only for Jewish people. Jesus challenges these ideas with the parables in today’s Gospel.

Jesus compares the reign of God to a seed and in the first parable, He stresses how slowly a seed grows. First there’s the blade, then the ear, and finally the ripe wheat in the ear. Just as this process takes time and doesn’t occur overnight, the reign of God will also take time and will not happen all at once.

In the second parable, Jesus says that the reign of God is like a mustard seed that grows into a huge plant in which the birds of the air builds their nests. Notice that Jesus does not say the birds were only sparrows, or only robins, or only blue jays. Just as all birds build their nests in the tree, the reign of God will be for all people, not only for the Jews.

Knowing the people in His audience were likely to cling stubbornly to their cherished belief, Jesus usually chose not to come right out and tell them they were wrong. That method wouldn’t succeed. Instead, Jesus used parables because He knew people were more likely to remember them and share them with family and friends, discussing the meaning of each parable as they did so. In this way Jesus got them to re-examine their traditional beliefs and challenged them to think in a new direction without threatening them.

Each time we pray the “Our Father”, we pray for God’s Kingdom to come. We pray for the day when God will conquer the devil and restore the world to what it was like before man and woman sinned. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to be patient. He will defeat the devil, but it will take time. 

Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 178-179.) 

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, we understand that Christian hope implies uncertainty and requires patience. You prophet Ezekiel told his people this when he referred to a Hebrew Kingdom of God to come. Saint Mark told his readers the same lesson. God’s word is like a seed in us. Through You, Lord Jesus, our heavenly Father scattered it on the ground. We sincerely want this seed to bear bountiful fruit in the Church today. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Amen. 

Jakarta, 13 June 2018 [Feast of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest & Doctor of the Church] 

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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JESUS: THE SIGN OF CONTRADICTION, HOPE AND REDEMPTION

JESUS: THE SIGN OF CONTRADICTION, HOPE AND REDEMPTION  

(A biblical refection on the TENTH ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR B], 10 June 2018)

Gospel Reading: Mark 3:20-35 

First Reading: Genesis 3:9-15; Psalms: Psalm 130:1-8; Second Reading: 2Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1

The Scripture Text

He came home. Again [the] crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When His relatives heard of this they set out to seize Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.” The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons He drives out demons.”

Summoning them, He began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemies what people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” 

His mother and His brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd seated around Him told Him, “Your mother and Your brothers [and Your sisters] are outside asking for You. But He said to them in reply, “Who are My mother and [my] brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. [For] whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother. (Mark 3:20-35 NAB) 

“He is out of His mind. ……… He is possessed by Beelzebul.” (Mark 3:21,22)

These vicious charges were hurled against Jesus of Nazareth, the person who is the very essence of wisdom and holiness. It is absolutely frightening how some people can mercilessly condemn others and destroy reputations in such a reckless manner. How was it possible for those who professed to be awaiting God’s redemption to reject Him when redemption came?

Are we shocked at their blindness, their ignorance, or their apparent bad will? If so, we simply shocked at our own defects. How often we treat Jesus as a “sign of contradiction”? How often we cast aside His teachings? How often we have refused Him and conspired against Him? Yes, we always want for ourselves the biggest, the finest, the most. Jesus, however, took the least for Himself.

What His Father required, that He did – at the cost of His security, His comfort, even of His life. For Himself He took nothing. With a singleness of purpose, with a purity and simplicity that not the greatest of prophets had equalled, Jesus brought a redemption His people were not prepared for! Yet, as we look back and as we look around us, we can truly ask, “What else would have brought true redemption? What other redemption did we need?”

The Gospel passage of Jesus’ mother and His brothers and sisters sometimes causes people difficulty regarding the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. If Jesus had brothers and sisters, must it not be true that Mary had other children besides Jesus? This cannot be concluded from this passage in the Gospel of Mark because the Greek words used here for brothers and sisters are used just as well for cousins. So this should cause us no consternation.

We are surprised a bit, however, that when Jesus was told that His mother and relatives were waiting to see Him, He simply said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” (Mark 3:33). It seems a bit rude, at least somewhat out of place. But here Jesus was taking the opportunity to teach a lesson. Gazing around to those seated in a circle He said, “Here are My mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother” (Mark 4:34-35).

Jesus here does not renounce His natural kinship and the duty of love connected with it, but He radically subordinates it to a higher bond of brotherhood under God the Father. The Kingdom of God in us makes demands on our commitment which sometimes must go beyond and above all natural bonds of family, nationality or race.

There is no doubt that a natural blood relationship sets up a very close bond. Often it makes one almost willing to transgress God’s commandments in order to keep on the good side of a dear one who has gone wrong.

Sometimes families, parents, have such strong ties on their children that they are unwilling to give them up for the Kingdom of God. They do not realize that there are stronger ties, ties of spiritual bonds, between Christ and their daughter or son or between their daughter or son and others who dedicate their lives to Christ. And these ties according to Christ in today’s Gospel must take precedence to the natural family ties. Such is the nature of the family of God.

Prayer: Jesus, You are my Lord and Savior! I sincerely believe that You love Your mother, You relatives, even the Scribes and others who hate You. You did too perfectly what we hope and are never able to accomplish. Jesus, You will always be the “sign of contradiction”. And for that very reason, to us You will always be the sign of hope and redemption. Also, how grateful we are when realizing that we are indeed Your sisters and brothers. Thank You Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jakarta, 3 February 2018

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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GOD WANTS TO SHARE HIS LIFE WITH US

GOD WANTS TO SHARE HIS LIFE WITH US

(A biblical reflection on SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY SUNDAY: THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST – June 3, 2018)

Gospel Reading: Mark 14:12-16,22-26 

First Reading: Exodus 24:3-8; Psalms: Psalm 116:12-13,15-18, Second Reading: Hebrews 9:11-15 

The Scripture Text

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where will You have us go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the householder, ‘The teacher says, Where is My guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with My disciples?’  And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready, there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city, and found it as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

And as they were eating, He took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and give it to them, and said, “Take; this is My body.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Mark 14:12-16,22-26 RSV) 

When people in biblical times entered into an agreement they didn’t draw up a contract and sign it because most of them did not know how to read or write. Instead, they sealed the agreement by going through a little ceremony. That’s exactly what happens in today’s first reading.

In that reading, Moses stands at the foot of the mountain and, after reading the conditions of the agreement, he takes the blood of young bulls and sprinkles some of it on the altar and the rest on the people. As he does this, he says the blood is that of the covenant God is making with the Jewish people. In this way, Moses and the people ratify the covenant or contract that they enter into with the Lord. In this contract, they promise to obey the commandments and the Lord promises He will take care of them because they are His special people.

Although the ceremonies used to ratify an agreement differed from time to time and from place to place, there was one thing they had in common. Blood was always an important part of these ceremonies because ancient people believed blood was the source of life. They used the blood of animals as a symbolic way of saying that the agreement was coming to life. The shedding of blood made the agreement official.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus takes the cup of wine and says it is His blood, the blood of the covenant. Jesus used His own blood to give life to a new covenant between His followers and His Father in heaven. Jesus’ blood made our covenant with God official.

Notice that all three of today’s readings contain the word “covenant”. The dictionary defines this word as “a contract or agreement”. Although this isn’t an incorrect definition, it really isn’t an adequate one either.

A covenant is a contract or agreement in which the parties who are entering into the agreement share their lives with each other. A covenant involves a relationship, a very close relationship built on love. It was Jesus’ blood that made such a close and loving and relationship between God and us a reality.

God wants to share His life with us but He will not force Himself into our lives.

Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 226-227.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You gave Your Church an admirable sacrament as the abiding memorial of Your passion. Teach us so to worship the sacred mystery of Your Body and Blood, that its redeeming power may sanctify as always. Who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Jakarta, 2 June 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim 

 

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